Vision-setting can be a painful process. Hours may be spent on one twisting sentence. Long, awkward silences may follow periods of disagreement. Jargon can add up to something that everyone agrees to but no one really understands or finds inspiring. It doesn’t have to be this way. As Education Elements has worked with districts across the country, we’ve found a few simple guidelines can help make the visioning process invigorating and inspiring rather than routine or frustrating.
It must be hard to be a cognitive scientist. You spend considerable time meticulously conducting research, designing experiments, summarizing findings, and publishing your work, all in the noble pursuit of furthering human understanding of how the mind works. But that's not enough. In fact, that’s the easy part.The hard part: getting millions of teachers (there are 3.4 million in the U.S. alone) to learn about and act on your findings.
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BEING A DESIGN & IMPLEMENTATION CONSULTANT
One of the best parts of my job is getting to see how teachers transform the learning experience for students. And one of the hardest parts for people considering doing personalized learning is imagining what it will look and feel like. I recently spent time talking to and observing a classroom in Horry County’s Myrtle Beach Middle School. I hope by sharing this here I can give others a window into what teaching and learning can look like in a more personalized classroom... As Jackie Kennedy sits with a group of 5 students reading near a Smartboard, an 8th grader jumps up from his seat on the other side of the room. “Ahh” he groans, “almost had a hundred! That’s an 88 though. Fifteen points.” He flexes in celebration - as one does in middle school.
It is well-documented that summer learning loss is real for students, with kids losing up to two months of mathematical computational skills during their break, and low-income students falling behind in reading as well.
When I taught in a large public school district, the first meetings after a short summer break were often full of surprises. Staff members, instructional coaches, and curricula frequently shifted, often within the context of leadership changes and new instructional initiatives. At times these initiatives felt unsupported, with one-and-done professional development sessions meant to sustain a year’s worth of practice. Perhaps more damaging, they could seem disjointed from one another and disconnected to the instructional challenges at hand. It became all too easy for teachers to disengage as the year went on and we awaited the next new thing. Our statewide work in Pennsylvania demands deep consideration about these types of experiences as teachers and students manage the transition to blended learning for the first time. The Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Initiative (PA HLI) spans 14 schools across several school districts in the central and eastern parts of the state. We work with Dellicker Strategies, a Pennsylvania-based strategic consulting firm, to coordinate support for schools through Pennsylvania’s Intermediate Units as well as Harrisburg University. It’s the type of project that maximizes the strengths of each organization, but also carries the danger of overlaps in implementation or gaps in support.